Review of Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Ballet, with Edward Watson and Leanne Benjamin. March 24, 2012.

Nureyev and Fonteyn in Macmillan’s Romeo and Juliet

Leanne Benjamin as Juliet and Edward Watson as Romeo. Music by Prokofiev, choreography by Kenneth Macmillan

Many different choreographers have taken on Prokofiev’s  score but Kenneth Macmillan has created great choreography which I hope will live on. Unfortunately, I cannot show you Leanne Benjamin is this role, so I have shown her dancing other pieces, as I have with Edward Watson. Let me open with a video of Alessandra Ferri as Juliet:

Alessandra Ferri;

Now Tamara Rojo in another bit:

Tamara Rojo:

And the bit of film of that historic performance when Fonteyn was in her fifties, and I believe that Nureyev and she really in their way loved one another:

Leanne Benjamin has taken on a role danced by the world’s most gifted ballerinas. She has brought to the role formidable acting skills as well as a lovely, light technique. The audience was in hushed attention through long stretches of the ballet and deeply moved.

Edward Watson was an excellent match as her partner because his strengths rest in his sustained grace and elegance as a dancer. He has a beautiful line and feet and  a lightness in performance. If on some of the lifts, Leanne and Edward could work on seeming spontaneity and height, they would be brilliant. In other words, you are on the ground and in the lift. It takes courage to abandon yourself to the lift. It takes, as well, working with the same partner.

Here is another moment of male dancing. In the performance I saw, the dancers were not as together:

The other place were the dancers did not anticipate the beat precisely together, and where the whole stage would heave rhythmically if they did, is the Capulet Ball:

Bravo to the sword fights. They had just rehearsed them and it showed.

Sadly, Leaanne’s youtube needs updating, so I must show her in other roles:

Leanne Benjamin:

Edward Watson:

Although I was moved by the last scene, I have been moved to tears in this ballet previously. I felt the set was overpowering the dance. I felt that the lighting was not sensitive enough. Death is intimate and in this case enclosed and dark. It focuses on the love between two people, and they need to be in physical contact.  When Romeo dances with the supposedly dead Juliet, that is a powerful moment. I felt that Juliet’s last moments should have been much more to do with Romeo, and that her death spread out upon the bed was melodramatic rather than poignant. They needed to touch at the end. This ending needs to be re-staged. It is a case where less would have been more. We do not need Paris in this scene. It looked a bit like a revenge tragedy at the end, rather than a Shakespearean romantic tragedy.

Romeo and Juliet with choreography by Macmillan remains one of ballet’s artistic summits.

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